Mahatma Gandhi is remembered today for the outstanding contribution he made not only to the freedom of India, but to the cause of world peace: He taught us the doctrine of nonviolence, not as a passive submission to evil, but as an active and positive, instrument for the peaceful solution of international differences. He showed us that the human spirit is more powerful than the mightiest of armaments.
He succeeded in transforming political activity, with his intense faith in Truth and Non-violence, into mass movements, which he described as Satyagraha,
Satyagraha is founded on the concept of human dignity and endeavour that gradually evolved into a theory of nonviolent social and political action, which he launched on 1 September 1906 in South Africa. The word Satyagraha is Sanskrit in origin. It is a compound word formed: of satya and āgraha. The word satya (truth) is derived from Sanskrit 'sat, which means being or to exist eternally and āgraha means holding fast, adherence. Together, they imply an insistence on Truth come what may.
- The journey of Satyagraha, which commenced from South Africa, travelled to the shores of Dandi, to the sprawling fields spread across the seven hundred thousand villages of India and then to the distant shores. The term Satyagraha found popular expression during the Indian Independence Movement and has become a part of the country's political lexicon. It was sheer providence which took the Mahatma to South Africa, the great theatre of action. The fight against racial prejudices in South Africa initiated by him was taken to its logical conclusion by the South African people under the charismatic leadership of Nelson Mandela, who came to acquire a distinct iconic status of his own. Nelson Mandela was inspired by Rev. Martin Luther's firm belief in Gandhian principles.
Martin Luther king jr, the prominent US civil-rights leader of the 1950s and 1960s, was introduced to Gandhi's teachings while studying to be a minister. The young man was captivated by the philosophy of nonviolent resistance. He saw that Gandhi's radical techniques had brought about great social changes in India and wondered if those same techniques would work in his own country. King was impressed that Gandhi had
learned to free himself from the hatred of his oppressors. He appreciated the Gandhian thought that if you freed yourself from rage, you could accomplish good for all mankind. Gandhi took Jesus´ message of "love your enemy" to a new level.
In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr: "the choice is not at all between nonviolence and violence, but between nonviolence and annihilation". King claimed that Gandhi had been the first to grasp the truth that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that". What was new about Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha movement in India was that he mounted a revolution on hope and love, hope and nonviolence."
Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela of South Africa became a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. An activist who spent 27 years in prison, Mandela helped free South Africa from apartheid and became the first black president of that country in 1994. Perhaps the greatest impact of Gandhi's teachings on Mandela and the ANC, was that of tolerance. Mandela's' party brought together Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Jews. These diverse people were bound by a common goal- freedom from colonial rule. For his ability to find this "common ground", as he called it, Mandela was awarded in 1993 a special honour- the Nobel Peace Prize.
In his acceptance speech, Mandela echoed Gandhi's words. He insisted that he "was merely the representative-of millions of people around the world who recognized that an injury to one is an injury to all`'. During his visit to India in 1990, soon after his release he had said, "Gandhi holds the key for the future of. Mankind," follow him with all your determination".
In another' part of the globe, in Czechoslovakia, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Vaclay Havel drew global admiration for his adherence to nonviolence as a means of socio-political .transformation. Under Vaclav Ravel, the days of politics of complacency were over. When Havel emerged as the man of the moment for his country, his qualities of leadership and vision caught the imagination of millions all over the world. Small wonder then, to a lot 'of his ,fellow countrymen and women `Havel' and 'Czech' became synonymous.
Vaclav Havel has acknowledged his deep admiration for the Gandhian principle of nonviolence. He firmly believed that "the Velvet revolution of Czechoslovakia would have fizzled out, if it had departed from nonviolent democratic protest". He admits that " without Gandhi's example I would have lacked the right kind of inspiration."